Dear Husband is a member of the Chicago Maritime Society. He found this article by John Hadfield in their Winter, 2004 newsletter. Mr. Hadfield and the Society have given me permission to reprint the article here. Mr. Hadfield's source is unknown.
The U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) as a combat vessel carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men. This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea. She carried no evaporators (fresh water dislillers).
However, let it be noted that according to her log, "On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum."
Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping."
Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum. Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine. On 18 November, she set sail for England.
In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchantmen, salvaging only the rum aboard each.
By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted. Nevertheless, and though unarmed, she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. Her landing party captured a whiskey distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch whiskey aboard by dawn. Then she headed home.
The U.S.S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February, 1799, with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, NO rum, NO wine, NO whiskey, and 38,600 gallons of stagnant water.
Now, Dear Husband has done a bit of math for us. Keep in mind that there were 475 officers and men on board.
The first leg of the trip from Boston to Jamaica took 71 days. If the 79,400 gallons of rum were shared equally, each man would have drunk 2.35 GALLONS of rum a day.
The second leg of the trip, from Jamaica to the Azores plus six day in port amounted to 43 days. 68,300 gallons of rum divided equally to 475 men would be 3.34 GALLONS per day.
The trip from the Azores to England took 69 days. The 64,300 Gallons of wine loaded in the Azores amounted to 1.96 GALLONS per man per day, but you have to consider the unknown amount of rum "salvaged" from 17 ships.
On the final leg of the trip, from Scotland to Boston, over 25 days, the men consumed 3.36 GALLONS OF SCOTCH PER DAY.
It's a wonder they were able to stand to sail the ship. Think about walking on a rolling deck after a gallon or two of scotch. Over 208 days at sea, 475 men used only 10,000 gallons of water. Most likely that water was used for cooking. It's unlikely much of it was used for bathing or washing clothes. It boggles the mind.
The Chicago Maritime Society will have a booth at the Strictly Sail Show on Navy Pier in Chicago, January 29 - February 2, 2004. My thanks to John Hadfield for sharing the information on the U.S.S. Constitution.
UPDATE: Mr. Hatfield tells me that he got this story from Lt. Bob Doyle USCGR Ret. We don't know yet where Lt. Doyle found it.